Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Washington football team owner Daniel Snyder festooned in racism.
Washington football team owner Daniel Snyder festooned in racism.
Photo: Getty

In February, Land O Lakes released a statement saying their packaging would change.

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At the time, few cared.

Two months later, “Land O Lakes” is trending on twitter and sparking a national conversation around the place of Native logos.

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The press release was meant to celebrate dairy farmers ahead of the company’s 100th anniversary. But it was Land O Lakes’ decision to eliminate a long-standing logo that depicted a Native woman prominently in the center of its box, that received the most attention.

Minnesota is the home state of Land O Lakes. That state’s Lieutenant Governor, Peggy Flanagan, was one of many who supported the company’s removal of the Native image.

The image, the one on the Land O Lakes box for nearly a century, is not the only kind of Native logo to receive attention over the years.

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Native sports mascots have been debated for decades. Through the years, teams and fans have been under scrutiny for their Native names, logos, and practices.

The most abhorrent name for a team, however, comes from our nation’s Capital. Despite public backlash, a patent cancellation, and media outlet blackouts, Dan Snyder, Washington’s owner, has promised to never change the name of his football team and offensive logo.

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Recently, however, amateur and professional sports teams have dropped their native mascots or imagery. The Cleveland Indians officially abandoned their embarrassing red-faced, native caricature “Chief Wahoo” last year. Dartmouth College, Stanford University, Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of North Dakota, St. John’s and other American universities have traded their native mascots in for something, you know, not racist. Additionally, high schools across the country have stopped pretending that a dictionary defined slur is an acceptable logo for teenagers to wear on their jerseys.

Without question, The Land O Lakes decision has reignited a tense culture war. But there is an argument to be made that the move could be good for business. It follows in the footsteps of large american corporations who now identify as “socially aware” brands.

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After Nike released a commercial starring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, their stock hit an all-time high. And in response to the Parkland school shooting, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO, Dick Stack, decided to stop selling guns in his stores. Some were outraged they could not pick up a rifle and T-Ball equipment at the same store anymore, but Stack’s decision ultimately did not affect the company’s bottom line.

At the heart of this mascot story, of course, are Native people. They’re a group historically subject to the brunt of American imperialism and today, they face disproportional challenges across ethnic and gendered lines.

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Native journalist, Jaqueline Keeler, wrote in 2016, “Our young people have a rate of suicide 2.5 times higher than average. According to the American Psychological Association, which has called for the ending of the practice of mascotting, Native youth suffer measurably lower self-esteem after exposure to a Native American mascot.”

The coverage of Native mascots is, usually, the sports fans’ lens into Native issues. But as Keeler mentions, mascoting can have profound effects on Native youth and extend well outside the lines of play.

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Since Land O Lakes changed their logo, does that mean sports teams are next? Cynically, I doubt it.

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Even as schools and pro teams ditch native mascots, the remaining organizations have dug their heels into the dirt.

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